Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Semester in the Life of a Low-Res MFA Student: The Reading List

Following is my reading list for the Spring Correspondence Semester in the New England College MFA in Poetry Program. The four areas of study are mostly my choice (Poets of South Africa, the Booklength Poem (or the Long Poem), Spanish Language Poets, Poets in Performance). The reading list is jointly designed with the input of my faculty advisor, Anne Waldman. At this point, iambs are dripping from my ears:


Berold, Robert, ed. South African Poets on Poetry: Interviews from New Coin 1992 - 2001.
Brutus, Dennis. A Simple Lust.
Butler, Guby and Jeff Opland, ed. The Magic Tree: South African Stories in Verse.
de Kok, Ingrid. Terrestrial Things.
Kgogitsile, Keorapetse. This Way I Salute You.


Doolittle, Hilda. Trilogy.
Ecclesiastes (King James Bible)
Pound, Ezra. The Cantos.
Song of Solomon (King James Bible)
Waldman, Anne. Iovis.
Williams, William Carlos. Paterson.


Borges, Jorge. Selected Poems.
de la Cruz, Sor Juana. Sor Juana's Love Poems.
Ellis, Keith. Poetry and Ideology of Nicolas Guillen.
Garcia Lorca, Federico. Poet in New York.
Neruda, Pablo. The Book of Questions.
Neruda, Pablo. The Truly Essential Neruda.
Neruda, Pablo. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.
Paz, Octavio. Selected Poems.


Baraka, Amiri. Transbluesency.
Feinstein, Sacha and Yusef Komunyakaa, ed. Jazz Poetry Anthology.
Kerouac, Jack. Mexico City Blues.
Rothenberg, Jerome, ed. Technicians of the Sacred.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

You Can Tell a Lot About a Man by His

shoes Googlehabits.

There has been a lot in the news in recent years about the notion of personal privacy in virtual reality - about the use of various tracking mechanisms such as cookies which track a user's web-surfing habits and which may be used for anything from target e-mail marketing to out-and-out spying. Learning that you have been the unwitting subject of such surveillance can be quite unnerving - something akin to learning that you've been walking about with toilet paper attached to your shoe, or a giant hole in the seat of your pants.

I say this to you because you (yes, YOU) are being surveilled at this very moment. But before you get alarmed, please know that I wouldn't do anything to you to that I wouldn't want done to myself. There is an eye in the sky - yes - but it cannot see down into your cubicle, or into your living room, or into your boudouir. Right now, it only sees the equivalent of, say, your voting precinct, so you can relax. And besides, I don't want anything from you. Nothing, that is, except your readership. I'm a writer. I'm harmless. Ask Queen James!

Without building any more suspense, I'll get right to it. Last October, I installed a free webcounter, Site Meter, which you can see if you scroll down to the very bottom of this page. While I only intended to get a general idea of how many visitors were stopping by (over 2000 now in a little over 6 months), it gave me all sorts of extra information about you (yes, YOU) that I had not bargained for.

If you click on the Site Meter icon at the bottom of the page, it takes you to a site summary screen which tells you the average number of visitors per day, within the last hour, and the average visit length. That's helpful, I suppose, but pretty boring.

What is more interesting is if you begin clicking in the left-hand column under the Recent Visitors heading. The first heading, By Details, tells the domain name of a visitor such as aol.com or ga.us or 12.166.247.# or turner.com or mit.edu. In some cases, this isn't very helpful as in AOL or Verizon which have millions of subscribers, but in other cases, if a person is surfing from their job like say, spelman.edu, and I happen to know where they work and that I had a recent conversation with them, I can deduce who the visitor might be.

That's nice, you may say, but you still don't know anything. Where it really gets juicy is the next heading, By Referrals. Here, I can see how a visitor arrived at my doorstep. It's not enough to know that the person visited, but it helps to know whether they walked or drove, whether they just came from, say, a coffeeshop or a Klan meeting. For regular visitors, those who enter via www.mayodeleheath.blogspot.com, the referral information isn't very telling. But for new visitors, it is perhaps a little too telling.

In some cases, the referral is straightforward where visitors have come via other bloggers who have linked to my site such as Collin Kelley, Cherryl Floyd-Miller, Christina Springer, or scoplaw.

But when a person arrives via a yahoo or Ask Jeeves or Google search, the results become quite, shall I say, colorful. Because of the nature of a blogsite such as mine - text-based, ever-increasing, and in which I write on a wide range of topics (poems, reviews of stage plays and movies, love and relationship advice, a Mother's Day excursion, an episode at the Coinstar machine, a search for a slave plantation, South African travels) - because of this, people doing searches on all sorts of unthinkables accidentally wind up here.

Allow me to give you some examples of what people typed into a search engine to end up a this blog site. Click on some of the links for kicks. They contain actual screen captures of the visitors' searches. The first time I did it, I felt like I was peeking into someone's bedroom window. Weird:

how to catch a liar
coon fingering slang
she blew a big bubble
pumpkin carving contest in san francisco with $1000 prize
origin missionary position
spic watch
xiao lao-shu
Christianity vs monsters
Byrd family history
Tearsa Coates
Juneteenth *T shirts

While it shows the 'how' of the person arriving here, it doesn't give any identifiable information about the 'who' of the person arriving here. Or does it?

Who is the man driving across the golden gate bridge dreaming of jack-o-lanterns? Who is the woman haunted by a missionary each night she lies down with her husband? What young girl's eyes are just a little brighter now that she knows the significance of Juneteenth?

What is even more interesting, perhaps, is what this says about me. What might a shrink deduce about my personality from a random sampling of my blogging habits? Of liars and spics? Of Christians and monsters? Of whom and what I, via my blog, attract?

Now that we are both standing here exposed, I think I'd rather turn back off the lights.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Love is Lucillology (Part 2 of 2)

"I'M SORRY," THE CASHIER SAID, "BUT WE DON'T HAVE any more tickets."

"What!" I said before I knew it as my heart crashed through the floor. My perfect gift - ruined!

That's what you get for waiting until the last minute to buy your tickets, I heard a voice say.

I thought I left my Mother at home.

"Yeah, we sold out this morning," the cashier repeated, "but you can buy tickets at the first house on the tour."

"So, let me get this straight. I can buy tickets at the first house on the tour, but is there any chance that the tour will sell out?"

"No, I don't think so." She blew a big pink bubble of gum. Pop! "Here, I'll write down the address to the first house for you. It's right around the corner. I can also give you directions."

She handed me the slip of paper and I sped off.

I wanted the tickets in my hands when I picked up my Mother to eliminate any possibility of future embarrassment - besides, I didn't want her to see that I waited until last minute to purchase tickets. So, I zipped down Roswell Road and onto Habersham into the green pulsing heart of Buckhead.

As I neared the house, passing estate after estate, I saw snowstorms of old White women in florals, in pastels, in white; in Panama hats and visors; with their sons or with their daughters; smiling, laughing, snapping pictures - all in all having a good time. As I walked up to the information table set up on the street, I felt good about my choice.

"I was just at the Buckhead Pike Nurseries up the street," I said to the official-looking blonde in the white sunhat, sitting in a lawn chair, who'd been chatting to a security officer, "and they told me they'd sold out of tickets. They said that I could purchase them here."

"Well, actually, we've sold out too."

My eyes widened.

"But it's no problem," she smiled, continuing in her almost-theatrical drawl. "What we've been doing is giving people these programs," she opened one, "and signing them here. We ran out of tickets early this morning. The demand for the tour has been a lot greater than we expected this year."


"Do you take Visa?"

Okay, now you're pushing it.

She looked around the table. "No, we don't have a machine here. Unfortunately, we're only able to take cash."

"Okay, then." I was cashless. Off to the ATM! "I'll be back."

"Alright, we'll be here!"

It was five before one, which was five minutes before I told my Mom I'd pick her up, and I was still in Buckhead, at least 30 minutes away.

"Mom, I'm running about a half-hour behind." I said. "I'll see you about 1:30."

"Oh, okay," she said.

Naturally, the Braves would be playing at 1:00, which meant there would be a rough ride through downtown. Nevertheless, I pulled up in my parents' driveway at 1:25.

Before I could even ring the doorbell, the door flew open.

"I'm ready!" she said in her pink cotton top, white pants, and sandals. "Are these shoes fine? You said we'd be doing a lot of walking."

"They should be fine."

"What about this hat? You think I'll need it?"

"Yeah, you should take it just in case."

"And I brought my camera. You think I'll want to take pictures?"

"It would probably be a good idea."

Boy, she was excited, and she didn't even know where we were going! Could it be that she was just excited about spending time with me?

And we were off.


As we pulled up to the first home on the tour just before 2:00, I handed my Mother the brochure.

"This is what we're going to see. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens has put together this garden tour of ten-or-so private homes in Buckhead that have opened themselves up to the public for viewing."

"These are actual people's houses?"


"Are we going to walk to all ten houses?"

"No, they're in the same general neighborhood but they're not close enough to walk to. We'll be driving to them. So, we'll only visit about 4 or 5, depending on how you feel."

"Oh, okay. Does my hair look okay in this hat?"

"Yes, Mom, you look great."

I paid for our signed-brochures-substituting-for-tickets and we walked up the driveway of 3018 Habersham Road.

You couldn't see the house from the street for all of the foliage. And I had no idea what to expect as we stepped onto the property, onto a shady wooden path and into a deep green world. It must have been ten degrees cooler in here beneath the trees. And 30-or-so yards on the slightly-inclined gravel walkway, the winding path opened up to a patch of sky, splitting in two - one path leading up a hill where we could just see the peaked roof of the house; the other path swung out disappearing around a bend.

Various guests ahead of us audibly oohed and aaahed.

"To your right is a more natural garden," a woman with a name tag, standing at the split, said. "Upward and to your left is a more formal one. I'd recommend going to your right first, and you can come back this way when you leave."

Various pink, white, and yellow exotic blossoms perfumed the path we walked as we crossed over a short bridge. A man-made brook gurgled beneath. Surrounded by classical stone sculptures of plants and cats and birds, green bursting all over - far from traffic, from smog - it was hard to remember that we were still within Atlanta city limits. That this garden unfolding before us, which was on some of the most expensive real estate in the city, added to its impressiveness. I couldn't fathom how much this acreage must cost in this part of town, much less how much it cost to maintain it.

"Oooh look at the rhododendrons," my Mother said. "Aren't they beautiful?"

"Yes." I smiled. "They are."

"And ooh, look at these trees. Look at the beautiful white blossoms... And look at that tree."

It was like walking into an issue of Better Homes & Gardens - except I was actually enjoying it. That is, because she was enjoying it. At the end of the gravel path, we came to the back of the ample two-story house with a cascade of steps down to the pool, where vines of white roses climbed up brick walls and the back of the house.

"Oh my," she said. "Let me take a picture." She snapped with her digital cam. "How do you think it turned out?" she asked, showing me the shot.

"Fine," I said, looking at her smile. "Just fine."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Love is Lucillology (Part 1 of 2)

EVERY YEAR AROUND THIS TIME - which would be the week leading up to Mother's Day - I get a mild rash, which is directly related to the not-so-mild panic that I feel as I search far and wide for some small token of appreciation for the woman who, in addition to giving me enough life lessons to earn a doctorate in Lucillology, also gave me life.

If it were any other institution besides the Institute of Lucillology, I might expect a whopping 100 billion dollar bill for the courses (10 katrillion dollars after applying the avalanche of delinquency charges - Hello, Georgia Institute of Technology!) -

WALKING 5/3/75 - 7/15/75 $500 million

TALKING 7/23/74 - 5/19/78 $100 million

DRINKING FROM A CUP 11/26/75 - 12/24/75 $10 million

USING A FORK 9/2/77 - 10/18/77 $10 million

GOOD GRAMMAR 7/23/74 - PRESENT $200 zillion

But not only does she have no intention of ever billing me for her services, the fact that she never complained about administering her services warrants canonization, if not popehood. That I still use these lessons on a daily basis not only attests to her level of excellence but to the incalculable market value of her services. Which is to say: There is no way I can possibly repay her.

And so, while I am not one to get caught up in the commercial craze of holidays - never been big on birthdays, Christmas, etc. - I do hold Mother's Day (and Father's Day, for that matter) holy. And so it is that I end up in this panic annually in the second week of May.

Before I go any further I should tell you some things about my mother. Lucille is not a fussy woman - she rarely wears make-up or perfume; doesn't wear dangling earrings or much in the way of jewelry; doesn't care particularly for fancy restaurants; and her favorite color is BEIGE.

"Beige?" I, an eight year old, questioned, as if she had just defied a law of physics.

"Yes, beige."

"That's not a color. What's your favorite color? "

"Beige is a color."

"No, I mean like red or purple or green."

"Oh," she said, as if she had never considered red or purple or green. "Well, then... tan!"


Which is all to say that my mother has simple tastes. And while this may lead one to believe that it is easy to make her happy, quite the contrary is true. It took me years to learn that her very genuine "That's nice" upon receiving gifts was a showing of genuine appreciation - not genuine happiness.

Over the years through trial and error, through permanently-closeted mohair sweaters and still-shrinkwrapped music cassettes, I managed to figure out that my mother likes three things: 1) a nice meal, 2) shopping, and 3) flowers.

Which is to say that I have seen my mother genuinely happy before, and that is a joy greater than any in the world. But as I am settling into the role of artist, as 'the cultured one' in the family, I feel an added responsibility to produce something beyond brunch, beyond a bouquet of roses - something one-of-a-kind to make her happy.


This year I decided on the Atlanta Botanical Gardens' "The Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour," a 13-home tour of Atlanta's finest private gardens which have been opened to the public. After reading samples from the brochure:

1. BERNADINE & JEAN-PAUL RICHARD 1295 Heards Ferry Rd., Atlanta, Ga. 30328 Sandy Springs. Eight fabulous acres rich with whimsy include a fanciful symphony garden, terrace garden, tropical lily garden, and notable Cunninghamia stand. Tiny stone chapel, meditation garden and labyrinth, abundant water features, sparkling fountains and stream. Dreamy stone garden house.

4. NANCY & JOHN WILLIAMS 4615 Northside Dr. NW, Atlanta, Ga, 30327 North Buckhead Ten-acre tour de force never before on tour! Entry drive, 1/3-acre lake, notable Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’, largest in the U.S. Formal oval garden, “ruins”, rose, vegetable, hillside and hydrangea gardens. Streams play into koi ponds. Easy living includes pool and treehouse/ playground areas.

Between "largest in the U.S.," "ten acre tour de force," the scientific names I couldn't pronounce, and "ruins" - a house with ruins? - she would be bombarded with beauteousness-ness. I was sold.

And so on Sunday, Mother's Day, a little before noon, car shined and I, freshly showered and groomed, floated through cloudless skies to a ticket location, the Buckhead Pike Nurseries, to pick up my passway to my Mother's happiness.

It was a hive of activity. I had to wait in a line of five - on a Sunday morning no less - just to purchase.

When I finally reached the register:

"I'm sorry," the cashier said, "but we don't have any more tickets."

"What!" I said before I knew it as my heart crashed through the floor.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE: Sunday, 5/15, 3:30 p.m.

On Sunday, May 15, 3:30 p.m., I will be reading in an event called The Language of Bones as part of the weeklong Arts in the Park series at historic Oakland Cemetery on the edge of downtown Atlanta. Visit http://oaklandcemetery.com/ for directions and more details. The basics follow:

3:30 PM - Oakland Cemetery - African-American Section
Spoken Word: The Language of Bones
Cherryl Floyd Miller & Friends

Some of Atlanta's most prominent citizens are buried at Oakland Cemetery, including former mayor Maynard Jackson and writer Margaret Mitchell. Join Fulton County Arts Council DIALOG Fellow Cherryl Floyd-Miller and other contemporary poets as they commemorate the 12,000 black Atlantans who are buried in these grounds.

Featuring M. Ayodele Heath, Lita Hooper, Ikem Leigh, jessica Care moore, JW Richardson, Dorian "Paul D" Rogers, Ariana Santiago, Sharan Strange and local Jazz singer Wafiyyah. Artist's books and CDs will be available for purchase.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Starting today, May 3, thru May 14, I will be the featured artist on Collin Kelley's Internet radio talk show, Business of Words on leisuretalk.net. It's the show's one-year anniversary.

A 30-minute show, it will air every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 2:00, 6:00, and 10:00 (both AM & PM).

You'll need RealAudio or Windows Media Player. Just click on the link above during the airtime.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Tale of Rain & Shadow

ONCE UPON A TIME, WHEN TIME WAS MEASURED in the length of shadows, I met a woman - on a dirt road much like this one - who didn’t know the smell of rain.

“How sad,“ she said to no one. “I want to know it.”

Her long black eyes were not quite as long as her gaze, and so it was, on a day like today - impossibly February, in the height of summer - the infrared waves rose as the sun lowered that final time it would lower among the skyline of aloes - as if by great pallbearers of Light, into the ground.

It was on an eve such as this that I stumbled over her shadow, the woman with the long black eyes, and felt a chill - cold and black as thunderclouds.

Stretching long beyond valleys and rivers of dust, beyond the red blaze of sea, I knew not where it had begun, but her shadow was easily the longest I’d ever seen. It must have been the longest in the world - beyond deserts without clouds, beyond clouds without dreams.

This shadow must have meant that she was very old in this time when time was measured in shadows - she, with her long black eyes and longer black gaze. She must have been, perhaps, the oldest woman in the world.

“But I am not,” she said suddenly as a crack of lightning, as if reading the pages in my eyes.

“In a dog’s time, I could count my years on one paw.” And she howled a startling blue song that made the ground tremble. Her shadow:

“Long as a difficult birth,” she sang. “Long as lovers‘ time.”

She should have passed away long ago for that long, blue shadow of a song she sang that first time that she smelled rain. And what a long soft rain it was. Like a dusting on her crackling black skin. Or the crackle of an overdue smile.

Long as shadows go when the sun is low, it was. Or low as a hum as a hum can be

And still
be light.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

UPCOMING EVENT: Wednesday, May 04, 7:30 p.m.

Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

a special
"Masterpieces from European Artist Colonies 1830-1930"

Artists in Residence: Fulton County Arts Council
and the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers in South Africa

A panel discussion about this ongoing international residency program,
moderated by Val Porter, Deputy Director, Fulton County Arts Council


Terri Dilling (visual artist)
M. Ayodele Heath (poet)
as well as Lisa Tuttle, Kevin Sipp and others.

Wednesday, May 4th
7:30 p.m. in the Skylight Gallery
$5.00 admission
FREE for OUMA members, Oglethorpe University community

Also see: http://museum.oglethorpe.edu/exhib.htm